I don’t have a dedicated beer fridge (yet), so every so often a beer or two gets lost in the shuffle of bottles that move in and out of the fridge in my apartment. I tried to sample and review all of the beers from my June trip to Connecticut before moving onto the beers from my July trip to Maine, but a couple slipped through the cracks. I honestly was a little over-aggressive in my purchasing in CT, I always end up buying more beers than I can reasonably write up in the time the beers are at peak freshness, usually I end up with a backlog of beers I have tasted and taken notes on and I have to spend some time drinking non-review beers to get the blog caught up (it’s a difficult problem and a hard life I live, I know). One of the CT beers that slipped through the cracks a little was Penny Weiz, the Belgian style witbier from Olde Burnside Brewing Company in East Hartford. Old Burnside makes a variety of traditional beer styles and gives each beer an unique Scottish inspired twist. Instead of using coriander as a spice in their witbier they use imported heather tips along with orange. Olde Burnside Penny Weiz is available year-round in 12 oz. bottles and on draft.
Olde Burnside Penny Weiz pours a hazy copper with a mild white head. The scent is mostly malty wheat along with a little citrus fruit. The flavor is malt forward, notes of whole wheat bread, biscuits and just a touch of malt sweetness. The heather adds some herbal tea flavors, and you can identify some orange and earthy hops in the flavor too. The yeast is pretty muted here, it doesn’t have the strong and expressive ester flavors that are present in many Belgian yeast strains. Penny Weiz is light and drinkable, not too strong at 5.6% ABV and finishes clean. In all this is a solid Belgian style witbier with an interesting twist, worth checking out if you are a fan of the style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
I just finished an awesome trip to Maine where I visited a number of breweries and tasted some delicious beer. I will get around to writing about some of these beers over the next few weeks. For now I still have a little backlog of articles to finish about my trip to Connecticut in mid-June. I might have gone a little overboard in my purchases, but Craft Beer Cellar in West Hartford had a great selection and I wanted to give a number of new-to-me breweries a shot. Next on the list is Overshores Brewing Company out of East Haven, CT. Overshores was the first brewery in Connecticut to focus exclusively on Belgian beer styles. Their brews mix traditional Belgian techniques and recipes with a diverse range of both old and new world ingredients. You can now find a selection of beers in either their East Haven tap room or in bottles distributed across the state. I grabbed two selections to bring home and sample. Simpel is a Belgian table beer brewed with Centennial and Cascade hops. Blanc de Blanche is a traditional Belgian witbier brewed with coriander and orange peel. Both are sold year round on draft and in distinctly squat 11.2 oz. bottles.
Overshores Simpel pours a deep yellow with a medium white head. The scent is mostly spicy and fruity Belgian style yeast along with a little citrusy hops. The yeast leads the flavor with notes of clove, coriander, pepper and pear. This is followed by the hops which add some mild lemon and grapefruit along with a refreshingly crisp bitterness. The flavor is rounded out by a light malt backbone. Simpel is super-light bodied and very easy to drink, and a true session beer at 4% ABV. Overshores Simpel is a very nice beer, tons of flavor and goes down smooth. If you want a low alcohol beer but you’re burned out on the glut of session IPAs on the market this is definitely worth a try. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Overshores Blanc de Blanche pours a cloudy straw yellow with a massive white head. The scent is all Belgian yeast, spicy with some subtle fruitiness. The yeast comes through solidly in the flavor as well, notes of pepper, clove and green apple. This is complemented by soft touches of coriander and orange, very traditional additions to a Belgian witbier. The wheat leads the malt flavor, adding some balance and backbone. The beer finishes crisp and goes down easy, but the beer packs a little punch at 6.4% ABV. Overshores Blanc de Blanche is a well-made and very traditional take on the witbier style, perfect for the beach or a BBQ. Hoppy Boston score 4.0/5.
My sampling trip through Connecticut beers continues with a couple selections from Stony Creek Brewing Company in Branford, CT. Looking at their website I kind of wish I had made the trip to Branford instead of just grabbing the beers in a bottle shop, the brewery looks like a great place to hang out. They have indoor and outdoor space that includes a dock and space for games. Stony Creeks mantra is “aggressively laid-back”, their team focuses on creating ambitious and creative beers served in a fun and relaxing environment. I grabbed two selections to sample. The first was their summer seasonal Sun Juice, a Belgian style witbier brewed with orange peel, grapefruit peel, coriander and chamomile. The second was Dock Time, a year-round amber lager brewed with rye and Sterling hops. Both beers are available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Stony Creek Sun Juice pours a clear straw yellow with a mild white head. The scent is a mixture of estery Belgian style yeast and some citrus fruit. The yeast and added spices make up the majority of the flavor with notes of orange, apple, pepper, coriander, clove and grapefruit. This is supported by a solid malt backbone predominated by the wheat malts. There are some subtle grassy hops that add a little flavor and dry out the finish. The beer is very light and easy to drink, and not too heavy at 5.3% ABV. In all this is a very solid Belgian witbier, perfect for summer drinking on the porch or the beach. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5
Stony Creek Dock Time pours a deep amber red with a minimal white head. The scent is mostly rich malts, present but subtle. The taste is malt forward, touches of caramel, fresh bread, honey and roasted nuts. There are some mild earthy hops that add balance but this is a malt forward beer. The beer is crisp and clean, it is clearly a lager, and sessionable at 4.8% ABV. Amber lagers aren’t my favorite beer style, but this one was enjoyable. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
There are certain beers that I will always associate with specific eras or moments in my life, and Allagash White definitely is one of those beers. About 4.5 years ago I met a girl for a first date. I chose Audubon Circle as the venue, that was always a go-to place for me, cool atmosphere without being stuffy, noise level that facilitated conversation and a very good drink menu. While the bar had a full cocktail menu and a solid selection of wines by the glass, my date ordered an Allagash White. She didn’t know that I was a beer geek in training, that was just one of her favorite beers. I don’t judge people on what they drink, but I have to say that I was impressed that she ordered a local craft beer. It probably won’t come as a shock that this date led to many more, and that girl is now my wife (I wouldn’t be writing about this if it was some random girl I went out with years ago). Now every time I see Allagash White it reminds me of the first date with the woman I would marry, a truly happy memory that led to many more. It’s funny, I don’t recall exactly what I drank that night, I think it was Stone IPA, but I’ll never forget what my future wife ordered. It seemed perfect to review Allagash White as part of my first Hoppy Boston classic beer week. Allagash White is a traditional Belgian witbier brewed with a liberal dose of wheat, fermented with Belgian style yeast and spiced with coriander and Curacao orange peel. It is available year-round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Allagash White pours a cloudy straw yellow with a mild white head. The scent is pretty mild, a touch of Belgian yeast and a little spice. The first thing that comes to mind as you sip this beer is how light bodied and easy to drink it is. The flavor isn’t in-your-face, but it’s subtly complex. The yeast adds notes of pepper, bubblegum and apple while the malts contribute wheat and toasted bread. The spices are noticeable, coriander and orange, but not overpowering. Everything works well together, they squeeze a ton of complex flavor into the beer while keeping it approachable. At 5% ABV this is a borderline session beer (depends on your definition), perfect for sipping on the porch on a warm spring day. There is a reason why this beer is a classic, witbiers aren’t my favorite Belgian style but this one is very well done. I often recommend Allagash White as a “starter” craft beer for people who want to start trying different beer styles, but veteran craft beer drinkers should also give it a taste every so often. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Allagash Reviews:
Allagash Dubbel, Allagash/Maine Beer/Rising Tide Prince Tuesday, Allagash Saison, Allagash Black
The weather is getting warmer (finally) and lighter beers seem to go well with sitting on the porch, going to the beach, and backyard BBQs. My brother and I recently brewed a Belgian witbier together with the idea of having it ready to drink in time for the warm weather. The recipe is pretty straight forward, mixing barley malt with wheat and adding lemon and orange zest to give a subtle citrus fruit flavor to the final beer. Here is the recipe:
1.25 lb. CaraPils malt
1lb. Flaked Wheat
3.3 lbs. Breiss Pilsen light liquid malt extract
2 lb. Wheat dry malt extract
1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops (60 min)
0.5 oz. Saaz (15 min)
Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon (10 min)
0.5 oz. Saaz (5 min)
White Labs 400: Belgian Witbier yeast
Steep malts 30 min at 120-150 F. Add extracts and bring to a boil. Add hops at times shown. Ferment for 7 days, then rack into the secondary container and ferment for 7 more days. One note: the temperature was a little cooler than I would have liked for fermenting an ale, I think the yeast contributions would have been a little stronger with higher fermentation temperatures.
Hoppy Boston Witbier pours a deep orange, cloudy with a large white head (the beer is slightly overcarbonated). The smell starts with some citrus fruit, along with notes of wheat and some esters from the yeast. The beer is light, crisp and easy to drink. The wheat malts add some spicy flavors while the hops give a touch of woodsy pine. The Belgian yeast is present, contributing some mild fruit and pepper . The lemon and orange are also mild, adding some complexity to the overall flavor. The finish is clean with a little lingering spiciness and citrus flavor in the tongue. The beer is perfect for spring and summer, light bodied and easy to drink but still flavorful.
Mentioning Sam Adams beers in the presence of craft beer enthusiasts always elicits a strong response. On one hand, some think Sam Adams is too big to be called a craft brewery. On the other hand Sam Adams has been instrumental in bringing craft beer into the mainstream consciousness. I know I am one of many craft beer lovers whose journey from tasteless macro-lagers into craft was partially fueled by trying beers in the Sam Adams lineup. This was especially true with the Sam seasonals. As a lifelong resident of New England I was impressed by how well seasonal stalwarts like Octoberfest, Summer Ale and Winter Lager perfectly complemented the seasons. This discovery helped fuel my interest in learning more about beer styles and ingredients. While Sam Adams has stuck with a tried and true recipe for 3 of the seasons, their Spring seasonal has undergone a numerous changes. After a number of years releasing White Ale as their Spring seasonal, Sam Adams switched to Noble Pils (which became a year-round offering) then Alpine Spring. This year they are brewing a new version of White Ale, now named Cold Snap. Sam Adams Cold Snap is a Belgian Style Witbier, brewed with 2-row barley and wheat along with Hallertau hops. The beer also contains a number of spices. In addition to the orange and coriander that are typical in witbiers, Cold Snap contains plum, hibiscus and other fruits.
Sam Adams Cold Snap pours a cloudy light orange with a mild white head. The smell is pretty neutral, you get some mild notes of light malt and spice. The taste is light and drinkable. The malt is present, with touches of bread and wheat. The adjuncts provide a lot of the flavor, lemon comes in strong along with orange. There are also touches of plum and coriander, but they are very subtle. The Belgian yeast add some bubblegum and peppery flavors, but again very mild. There is a decent amount going on in this beer, but all of the flavors are very mild, it seems to focus more on drinkability than bold flavor. The finish is very clean, with almost no aftertaste. At 5.3% ABV it is on the lighter side, which is typical for a witbier. Cold Snap fits right in with many of the other Sam Adams seasonal releases, it acts as a nice introduction to a craft beer style. Hoppy Boston score 3.75/5.
Previous Sam Adams reviews:
Cisco Brewers is run by a group of entrepreneurs who manage not only the brewery, but also a vineyard and a distillery in beautiful Nantucket, MA. The vineyard opened in 1981 and the brewery was added in 1992. Cisco Brewers makes a series of year round beers including their very popular Whale’s Tale Pale Ale. They also brew seasonal and reserve beers. One of Cisco Brewers flagship beers is Grey Lady Ale, a Belgian Style witbier. Grey Lady is a nickname for Nantucket, so the beer acts as a tribute to the island it’s brewed on. Witbiers are one of the most popular styles of Belgian ales. They are typically brewed with wheat malts, spicy/fruity Belgian yeast strains, and spices like cardamom and orange peel. Witbiers are typically low in alcohol, but the combination of flavors from the malts, yeast and spices can lead to a complex brew. Witbiers can be a great introduction to craft beer for macro-beer drinkers as their flavors are typically very accessible. This accessibility has led big breweries to add mass produced witbiers to their lineups, which has helped make Blue Moon one of the most consumed beers in the US. While I wouldn’t recommend picking up a Blue Moon, there are many craft breweries that make complex and delicious versions of this Belgian staple.
Cisco Grey Lady pours a golden yellow, solidly carbonated with a mild white head. The smell is mostly the spices and yeast, notes of cardamom and clove along with some citrus fruit. The beer is very light bodied and easy to drink. The spices are up front, orange, clove and pepper. Next is the Belgian yeast flavors, contributing mild touches of bubblegum and green apple. The wheat flavors are there but somewhat muted. The beer is crisp and clean, and at 4.0% ABV very much a session beer. The finish is dry with a mild spicy aftertaste. If you know someone who wants to try craft beer, but doesn’t want anything too intense this is a good starting point. Describe it as a much better version of Blue Moon. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.